Store of the Future   //   September 9, 2021

Nordstrom is the latest retailer to expand its health and wellness assortment

Nordstrom is embracing the wellness category in a new brand partnership with at-home health testing brand Viome Life Sciences.

On Wednesday, Nordstrom announced that it will begin selling Viome’s “Health Intelligence Test” online and announced plans to expand distribution to select stores in 2022. Nordstrom will list the health product in its beauty section, following in the footsteps of other retailers like Anthropologie and Sephora that are starting to carry more health and wellness-related products in its beauty section.

While Nordstrom’s second quarter sales nearly doubled year-over-year, revenues were still down 6% compared to 2019, signaling the retailer’s continued need to search for growth. During the earnings presentation, Nordstrom CFO Anne Bramman said beauty delivered “strong results,” while Nordstrom President Peter Nordstrom described apparel as “underperforming” in the retailer’s  year-end earnings call. As a result, Nordstrom has made growing its beauty and wellness section over the past year a priority, launching a “Self-Love” sexual wellness popup online and in select stores in January, and expanding its brand assortments in the CBD and probiotic spaces. Now, Nordstrom hopes to blur the lines between beauty and wellness and drive further sales growth in its selection of digital-first, at-home health products.

Nordstrom will stock and ship the $199 dollar test, but Viome will still handle the testing and results. The test requires consumers to submit blood and stool samples to Viome’s lab and, in return, Viome gives consumers information about their gut microbiome, cellular function and immune health via the brand’s app. The company also provides users with a list of foods to eat and to avoid as well as long-term personalized supplements and subsequent testing for an extra fee.

“The fundamental reason for us to do what we do is for [consumers] to be able to understand what’s happening inside [their] own bodies,” said Naveen Jain, founder and CEO of Viome.

“As we look to broaden our health and wellness category, Viome provides a service that is new and innovative for us, as well as our customers who might be looking to learn more about their own personal health on their own terms,” Autumne West, Nordstrom’s national beauty director, said over email.

Beauty and wellness blurs

Over the past few years, numerous retailers have attempted to capture a rising interest in wellness and self-care.

In 2018, Anthropologie launched a luxury wellness subsection in select stores, while Sephora launched its Clean at Sephora program to tag green and clean beauty and wellness products. In 2019, Urban Outfitters began selling multiple new CBD brands to bump up its wellness selection. And last October, Kohl’s announced it was testing a new in-store concept called the Wellness Market, which would carry beauty and cleaning products from brands like Seventh Generation.

“Trying to find categories of merchandise that people buy more often than apparel, particularly in this environment, is a solid idea,” said Bryan Gildenberg, senior vice president of commerce at Omnicom Retail Group, told Modern Retail when Kohl’s announced its new wellness concept.

Wellness has always been an amorphous category: retailers will list anything from vibrators to facial skincare rollers to workout gear within their beauty and wellness hubs. Nordstrom’s partnership with Viome signals a further expansion of the space.

“[At Nordstrom], we’re committed to being a trusted resource, giving the customer the opportunity to discover what’s next in beauty,” said West. “Health and wellness is the natural next step, especially after this past year and half where it’s been the biggest focus of our daily lives.”

Color cosmetics accounts for the majority of prestige beauty sales, according to the NPD Group, however the subcategory has been in decline for years. Skincare is instead stealing sales share in the beauty space. The mental leap towards health testing from beauty is not all that different than the movement from makeup to cover towards skincare to treat.

“Nordstrom shared the same vision that being healthy is the new beauty,” said Jain. “Nordstrom wants to move from [beauty] and fashion [towards] health and wellness.”

Retail partnerships grow online and off

While Nordstrom is Viome’s first retailer partnership, Jain said the brand is in talks with other retailers for further expansions. Jain said there were multiple players that may be a good fit for the brand including pharmacies, grocery stores and fashion and beauty retailers like Nordstrom.

Like Viome, other DTC-first, at-home health players have slowly been testing out in-store retailer partnerships. Wellness testing brand Everywell now sells at CVS, Kroger, Target and Walgreens as well as through DoorDash. Self-medical-examination device TytoCare expanded its distribution to Best Buy.

Indeed, Jain is excited for the planned in-store Nordstrom launch of Viome’s test next year, as he thinks in-store assistance will help guide consumers in a relatively new category. However, Nordstrom is primarily focused on building out its wellness space online.

“We are focusing on a digital-first approach, a change accelerated by what we have seen in the past year,” said West.